Today’s Headlines

  • De Blasio: Fund MTA With Millionaires Tax (NYT, WNYC)
  • Which Is More Likely to Pass in Albany – Taxing the Rich or Toll Reform? (Crain’s)
  • Every Day, a Lot of Scheduled Subway Runs Never Happen (NYT)
  • Gelinas: Best New MTA Execs Can Do Is Limit Damage From Cuomo’s Malfeasance (Post)
  • Jim Brennan: Cuomo’s Been Lying About State Support for the MTA (Gotham Gazette)
  • Where’s the MTA Emergency Plan to Fix Sluggish, Unreliable Bus Service? (Gotham Gazette)
  • Frederick Swope, 21, Dies of Injuries Inflicted By Truck Driver Near Chelsea Piers; NYPD Blames Victim (Gothamist)
  • The Mayor Says We Haven’t Heard the Last of the BQX Streetcar (WNYC, Voice)
  • Schumer and Senate Dems Hold Up U.S. DOT Nominees to Pressure Trump on Gateway (WSJ)
  • Better Bike Lanes for Southern Brooklyn? Teresa Scavo‘s Got Her Hackles Up Already (AMNY)

More headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • guest

    A follow-up question to your recent piece about the newly paved & always car-covered ped/bike path btw Queensbridge Park / Vernon Blvd & QBB. On top of drivers parking & driving in that space, they also routinely drive into & park in Queensbridge Park, entering via the bike/ped entrance right across Vernon Blvd from the path you wrote about in the article. Has there ever been any enforcement of that? Do the local precinct & NYC Parks simply think it’s cool if people drive in there? Is there a reason there is no bollard on the path, that would prevent cars from entering? It’s not even a bad apple driver every now and then; it’s done all the time by drivers going in to BBQ or whatever. I only go by there a few times a week but see it all the time. That entire area needs so much enforcement to be safe & enjoyable for pedestrians & cyclists.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “The commuter rail systems receive more generous subsidies from Bridge and Tunnel tolls than New York City Transit, about $400 million a year compared to $287 million a year.”

    When NYC agreed to turn over the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority to the MTA, the deal specified that 67 percent of the first X amount (don’t know the number) would got to New York City Transit, along with 50 percent of the rest. So this is, theoretically, impossible.

    Which comes round to where the money from any additional tax increases will go, given that “money is fungible.”

    1) A state arbitrator has ruled that any money the MTA sets aside for pay as you got capital projects should go to higher wages for transit workers inside and outside New York City, higher than private sector workers receive. Most of these workers don’t live in NYC.

    2) The TWU wants an end to the 3 percent contributions but employees hired after 2012 to their pensions, and retirement at age 50 after 20 years of work, which they went on strike for in 2005. The retirees are in low-tax Florida.

    3) Additional money could be shifted to featherbedding and graft on the LIRR.

    Note that as a pro-union “progressive,” DeBlasio would be in favor of all these things.

    4) Or Upstate economic development projects.

    Someone needs to say that public service recipients in general, and NYC residents in particularly, have been robbed by the political/union class as well as the executive/financial class before more money is ponied up. Otherwise, like the NYC schools, they will just leave us with what he have or worse, and demand more.

    https://larrylittlefield.wordpress.com/2017/07/23/census-bureau-data-on-public-school-spending-in-new-york-robbed-sneered-at-resented-and-sued/

  • Larry Littlefield

    Really, Brennan’s figures on the distribution of TBTA toll money are absolutely unbelievable. Funny how he is out of office before he mentions it. Someone should follow up on this.

    It sounds as if they went a little under 50 percent in the Pataki Administration (which is the last I heard of this), got away with it, and just kept going.

    NY State has no moral obligation to pay for services in the city, just in the suburbs, because the city owns the MTA? Doesn’t NYC also own the TBTA?

    DeBlasio and Cuomo are allegedly in conflict, but what’s being said isn’t close to what I would be saying in their place. How come NYC residents are paying state taxes for municipal aid for every locality in the state except NYC, for example? How come all those abuses on the LIRR get to continue? Etc. Etc.

    https://larrylittlefield.wordpress.com/2017/05/20/medicaid-the-rest-of-new-york-state-re-declares-war-on-new-york-city/

    Too bad NYC doesn’t have any representatives in Albany. Just a few ex-representatives now collecting tax-free pensions.

  • AMH

    I’m puzzled by the Times article. Headways are obviously more important than OTP, but those are also not being met if people are waiting 8mins for a 6 train during rush hour. Are they not doing battery runs after a train is delayed? How are more trains supposed to get through if congestion is preventing it?

  • Vooch

    Bollards by the thousands are the solution for such challenges. Go to any civilized city and you’ll see bollards copiously installed to prevent drivers abusing the streets.

  • sbauman

    The MTA is too busy making up excuses for their poor performance than to analyze the causes. This leads to excuses that strain one’s credulity.

    They have developed a set of performance metrics to hide their performance. Trains that don’t run, i.e. never leave their terminal, don’t count in the OTP metric. It’s like a walk in baseball. It’s not an at bat, hit or out. It never existed. OTOH, trains that leave the terminal and either arrive at their final destination more than 5 minutes later than their scheduled arrival or are canceled en route, are counted as being late.

    Contrary to Mr. Lhota’s assertion, the MTA has already padded the schedule to make sure not too many trains arrive “late”. One artifice is to add a long hold at the next to last stop. Today, 548 out of 8626 scheduled trips have holds of 4 minutes or longer at the next to last stop.

  • Urbanely

    Thank you. I’ve always wondered about the extended time it takes trains to pull into the final stations. You can see the station, there’s NO “train traffic” ahead, and yet you’re held there every single time, often missing a connecting bus. Unreal.

  • Larry Littlefield

    This may not be anything new and may not be related to padding statistics, however.

    I ran into that kind of delay 10-plus years ago too, on the White Plains Road line. The issue may be terminal capacity as the rush hour winds down. I would have been better off exiting at the next-to-last stop and walking, had I known what the delay would be.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Here is the last time this was in the news. A couple of decades ago.

    http://www.nytimes.com/1996/02/29/nyregion/mta-tolls-to-rise-17-for-bridges-and-tunnels.html

    “The bridges and tunnels are the only part of the transit system that turns a profit — $568 million last year — and that money is used to support other arms of the M.T.A. Under a formula set by state law, 52 percent of the surplus goes to the Transit Authority, and 48 percent to Metro-North Commuter Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road.”

    Is Brennan wrong? If not, what the hell happened? Under the terms of the agreement by which New York City turned the TBTA over the MTA, that can’t fall below 50 percent.

    Any transit reporters reading this? This is a big story. As is the fact that every municipality in NY State is getting municipal aid EXCEPT New York City. When they eliminated municipal aid to NYC, they at least maintained the fig leaf of also doing so for a few super-rich areas such as the Hamptons too — but those areas got municipal aid restored.

  • sbauman

    This may not be anything new and may not be related to padding statistics,

    The figures for 2 Dec 2013 were 232 out of 8169 . As you can see the percentage of padded trips has gone from 2.8% to 6.5%

  • AMH

    “Frederick Swope, 21, Dies of Injuries Inflicted By Truck Driver Near Chelsea Piers”

    It wasn’t a truck driver; the article says the perp was driving a Honda.

  • AMH

    I’ve noticed this sometimes on weekends; a train will have to wait for a train to leave the terminal before it can pull in. Not sure whether this means the arriving train is early or the departing train is late, or something else.

  • Snide Commentary Guy

    But the NYPD can’t run the bad guys down with their cars if you put in bollards! Do you know how unsafe we would be if we had to rely on cops trying to run after the bad guys?!

  • Vooch

    what are those huge I-beam bumpers for on prowl cars if not to smash Bollards down during a emergency ??

  • Elizabeth F

    The details of how / why trains are delayed or cancelled may be interesting, but they’re ultimately a distraction. Like LA, NYC has now apparently run up against the limits of its transportation infrastructure. The only long-term option is to increase capacity — through the proposed subway improvements, through new subway and surface routes, through increased reliance on bicycles (including e-bikes).

    If capacity cannot be increased, the other (possibly better) option will be to put additional job and housing growth somewhere other than the Five Boroughs. There are plenty of satellite cities in the region that could absorb growth — not to mention dozens of American cities currently being left behind by runaway growth in NYC, LA, SF, etc.

  • Wilfried84

    Except when they put bollards all over the bike lane in Times Square, because do you know how unsafe we would be if they didn’t protect us from terrorists?

  • sbauman

    The details of how / why trains are delayed or cancelled may be interesting, but they’re ultimately a distraction. Like LA, NYC has now apparently run up against the limits of its transportation infrastructure.

    The details of why trains are delayed or cancelled isn’t a distraction.

    It’s absurd to conclude that NYC’s transportation is up against the limits of its infrastructure. The reason it’s absurd is because the same system and infrastructure used to run substantially more more trains per hour, and move more passengers per hour. This would indicate NYC’s operation is up against a management limit.

    I’m not familiar with LA’s system; it’s my impression that it operates substantially fewer trains per hour than NYC.

  • sbauman

    Not sure whether this means the arriving train is early or the departing train is late, or something else.

    The schedules are padded, so arriving trains tend to be early. Train operators and conductors usually leave a minute after the departing signal is given.

    One something else is that the dispatchers’ clocks at the terminals are not accurate. The clock at the uptown terminal may be a couple of minutes early, whereas the downtown terminal may be a couple of minutes late. The result is that late clock terminal will have no available tracks for arriving trains that left the terminal with the early clock.

  • Elizabeth F

    > I’m not familiar with LA’s system;

    LA’s dominant transport system is the freeway; where it now regularly takes 1 hour to drive 15 miles from Santa Monica to downtown, most times of day. On any particular day, you can point to something slowing you down — an accident here, construction there, etc. But the core problem is too much traffic (demand). My point is the problem with the NYC subway is now similar: too much demand.

    > the same system and infrastructure used to run substantially more more trains per hour, and move more passengers per hour.

    The same system used to run more trains, yes. But it’s never served substantially more people than it does today. Increased number of passengers results in longer wait times at stations as people squeeze on and off the trains, which results in fewer possible trains per hour. Again, there’s a good analogy to freeway systems: if you overload a freeway beyond its capacity, the total capacity of the system actually goes DOWN.

    > This would indicate NYC’s operation is up against a management limit.

    The MTA can and should do what it can to squeeze more capacity out of the current infrastructure — just like highway engineers fix problem curves, enlarge congested interchanges, and add extra lanes by paving over shoulders. For the MTA, these changes can/will include improved trainsets, improved signals, etc. But once all those changes are complete, it will be very hard to further increase capacity without digging out (even) longer platforms, building new tracks and stations, or both — all expensive propositions. It will probably be a LOT cheaper to take away surface road space and reallocate to bikes or buses.

  • Joe R.

    I hope you’re kidding about the clocks. Nowadays with atomic time accurate to microseconds readily available via the internet, cell phones, or GPS, there’s zero excuse for clocks to be minutes off. Seriously, the MTA still thinks and operates like it’s 1950.

  • sbauman

    The same system used to run more trains, yes. But it’s never served substantially more people than it does today

    Not completely true.

    What’s important regarding infrastructure limits is the passenger rate (#passengers/hr) or number of passengers in the peak hour. The number of passengers handled during the peak hour and peak 3 hours are substantially lower today than when the system operated substantially more trains per hour with the same infrastructure contraints.

    What has increased substantially, is the number of passengers carried during off peak hours. The off peak increase more than makes up for the decrease during peak hours. The system should have excess capacity during off peak hours.

  • sbauman

    I hope you’re kidding about the clocks.

    Back in April 2000, the MTA tried to operate 30 tph on the Flushing Line as an experiment on a Saturday. They had the bright idea that somehow, increasing train length from 10 to 11 cars was the reason they could no longer do it. So, they cut all the train lengths to 10 cars and moved extra trains from the rest of the system to provide enough rolling stock. This was when the question of 36 tph operation came up in another forum.

    I witnessed both the Saturday experiment and the previous Friday to get a baseline. My position was at the 111th St stop because it allowed me to see both the local and express tracks. Half the locals start at 111th. The position of the express vis-a-vis the locals at 111th should have been constant to eliminate merging delays between 33rd St and Queensborough Plaza. They weren’t either on Friday or Saturday.

    Returning locals that relayed at 111th, invariably arrived late.

    I checked the clocks in the dispatchers offices at Main St and Times Sq through the windows. They did not agree. Nor did they agree with my watch, which I set to an NIST secondary standard before starting my observations.

    The main problem on Saturday was there wasn’t any supervision at the 111th St departing platform. Trains would pass up intervals waiting for a crew. The actual service level on Saturday was lower than that on Friday because of this snafu.

    It was on the basis of this experiment that the MTA concluded that 30 tph operation on the Flushing Line wasn’t possible. Therefore, the number of trainsets converted for CBTC operation will handle 28 tph and no more.

    I don’t know which clock the dispatcher uses to manually set the start lights. That same electric clock with a large digital numbers is still in the Main St dispatcher’s office. I don’t know if that clock or the smaller one on the computer terminal is used by the dispatcher. The window at Times Square was covered. It’s impossible to detect whether dispatcher clock errors are still a source for train delays.

    the MTA still thinks and operates like it’s 1950.

    The Governor would not have declared an emergency, if the MTA operated like the BOT did in 1950. Service levels on the uptown local track would still be 42 tph during the morning rush hour.

  • Fool

    We are up against the limits of our political infrastructure. Short of some massive amounts of reform against large bodies of vested interest the system is maxed no matter how much money we throw at it.

    Starting to create additional capacity utilizing the current political constructs and paradigms in the region is doomed to fail.

  • Fool

    We are up against the limits of our political infrastructure. Short of some massive amounts of reform against large bodies of vested interest, the system is maxed no matter how much money we throw at it.

    Starting to create additional capacity utilizing the current political constructs and paradigms in the region is doomed to fail.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Someone should go back to the arbitrator in question and ask if he is celebrating after the first mass casualty event on the subway.

    But your memory is correct. Transit workers have been getting richer and richer, in wages and benefits, relative to serf workers. But an arbitrator has rule that if the serfs agree to pay more to increase reinvestment in the system, that money can all be used for wages and benefit increases. This is plan for 20/50.

  • Joe R.

    All I can say is just…wow! The MTA seems so hopelessly incompetent at this point I think the only real solution is to replace it and everybody. Fire every single person from the lowliest station cleaner up to the top executives. Bring in some Japanese to set things up properly and train new hires. Carefully screen the new hires so you’re not rehiring anyone who previously worked there. Basically flush the “can’t do” culture by getting rid of both the workers and any remnants of current operating procedure.

    The downside is it might take some time before the system is up and running again but at least it’ll be run right. And do the same thing with the contractors. Anyone who previously did work for the MTA is no longer eligible to bid on projects. Put the bidding on a world stage. Get the best that is available regardless of what country they come from.

  • Joe R.

    So basically then there’s no point to putting more money into the system since it’ll just disappear down a black hole of increased wages and benefits?

    I wonder about the reverse. Suppose we intentionally starve the system of money. Can all the money not put in the system then go into wage and benefit decreases? To me that seems fair given the arbitrator’s ruling. If the workers have first dibs on any gain, then they should be the first to have pay or benefits cut when cash is tight.

  • kevd

    “have it stipulated that there can be no labor unions within the new organization.”
    So, I guess you’re not a labor lawyer, huh?

  • Joe R.

    Public employees are covered under different sets of laws with regard to labor unions: http://www.epi.org/publication/laws-enabling-public-sector-collective-bargaining-have-not-led-to-excessive-public-sector-pay/

    In theory NYS could legislatively prohibit public labor unions. If enough of the general public gets disgusted with the present situation it could well happen. One of the biggest obstacles to reforming the MTA is the TWU. When you can’t get rid of obsolete positions or move around people as you see fit, it’s a major impediment to running an organization efficiently.

  • AMH

    Synchronising clocks is a no-brainer. Aren’t employees required to synchronise their watches to an atomic clock?

  • kevd

    Public employees are covered by different laws, but they still have a right to organize and to collectively bargain.
    Even “right to work” laws don’t eliminate that those basic rights.
    “In theory NYS could legislatively prohibit public labor unions” and NYS would, in fact – lose the subsequent lawsuits.

  • sbauman

    It would appear that non-synchronized clocks are still very much in use. This picture appeared in today’s Times. That blue digital time display is just an electrical clock that’s plugged into an AC outlet. Maybe somebody should tell Cuomo what’s obsolete.

    https://static01.nyt.com/images/2017/08/10/nyregion/11subwaypower2/11subwaypower2-superJumbo.jpg

  • Joe R.

    Those AC clocks actually are accurate to within a few seconds per day if someone bothers to set them to the correct time just once. The power company takes great pains to adjust the mains frequency so on average an AC clock will neither gain nor lose time. That said, I’m sure nobody at the MTA bothered to adjust that clock to the correct time. After all, that concept seems alien to them. Never mind that you can buy any number of watches which synchronize themselves daily to the atomic time signal from Fort Collins.

  • sbauman

    I’m aware how easy it is to display time reliably that’s accurate to the second. Western Union used to have such a service before technology made the service obsolescent.

    The more basic question is how precise must schedules be and how accurately must they be maintained to insure 30 tph or 40 tph operation without merging conflicts? The answer will determine whether those few seconds per day are significant.